MANILA - National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. revealed on Tuesday night that thousands of returning overseas Filipino workers are posing a problem for the government in its battle against the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
According to Galvez, there are more than 27,000 OFWs who have returned to the country and are currently in Metro Manila. The government is also expecting at least 42,000 more to arrive within this month until June.
"Malaki po ang problema natin sa returning OFWs, kasi po sa ngayon more than 27,000 na po ang nasa Manila, at mayroong darating pa po na 42,000 this coming May and June. Mao-overwhelm po ang ating mga hotels," Galvez said in a televised briefing.
(We have a big problem regarding returning OFWs, because we currently have 27,000 here in Manila, and we are expecting 42,000 more this coming May and June. Our hotels will be overwhelmed.)
To address the problem, Galvez said he has instructed different government agencies to help OFWs who have been given a health clearance to return to their hometowns.
"Si General Lorenzana, kinausap niya po ang maritime industry, kasama po ang mga ibang agencies at sino-solve na po natin ang ating problema sa OFWs. He directed DOTr and also OWWA, and the MARINA, to immediately release all the OFWs that have tested negative," he added.
(General Lorenza has talked to the maritime industry, as well as other agencies, and we are trying to solve the problem with OFWs. He directed DOTr and also OWWA, and the MARINA, to immediately release all the OFWs that have tested negative.)
Galvez said around 30,000 OFWs have been tested, with 22,432 tested with the help of the Philippine Red Cross. Of this number, 465 have tested positive for COVID-19.
If they were not tested, these OFWs could have posed a huge threat to their hometowns, he said.
"Kung hindi po natin na-PCR, itong 465 po na ito, ito ang ating magiging parang second wave at kawawa po ang ating mga LGUs lalo na po 'yung mga hindi at walang alam, at walang PCR doon sa area, at saka walang facilities. Maganda pong ano ito kasi nahuhuli po natin kung sino ang nagpo-positive," Gavez said.
(If they were not tested, these 465 could have been the second wave of infections and those LGUs without their own facilities will suffer. It's good that we were able to identify those who tested positive.)
Many OFWs were forced to return to the Philippines after losing their jobs abroad due to the coronavirus crisis.
To help the displaced OFWs, the labor department launched a cash aid program where qualified workers may get a one-time $200 (P10,000) subsidy.